★★★★ Arid by Anne Joyce is a near-future dystopian thriller about a world where water has grown scarce and a select group of ultra-wealthy politicians and businesspeople have assumed control of the remaining supply. Deep in the desert wastes, a young man named Josh Wyman leads a small cohort of “indigents,” part of the massive number of Americans thrown out of their communities after a huge spike in crime. From twenty-five, Josh’s group has dwindled to only eight people, and everyday dangers like poisonous animals and roving bandits threaten to drive that number even lower. Josh is an engineer, so he is deemed useful by the Purifiers, a military force that those in power send out to both maintain peace and terrorize the commonpeople into submission. When the Purifiers make a housecall to pick up Josh for an assignment, he makes a decision that will either save his group from death or cause it to arrive all the more swiftly.
A moving portrait of pain and endurance, Arid is as hopeful as it is unnerving. Joyce presents a future scenario where the American government has outlawed all water collection, including containers put out to catch rainwater. Yet even in this brutal world, humans continue to love and live within small pockets of sanctuary. What’s particularly striking about Joyce’s story is the fact that Josh and his crew are fighting to get south of the U.S. border with Mexico; it presents a stirring mirror image of the immigration crisis facing those very countries today, and will hopefully spur empathy in open-hearted readers. Joyce’s novel is a character-driven one, and her colorful cast is used to great effect to show how honorable and selfish decisions alike will shape us into the people we strive to be—or the monsters we fear most.